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"A thrilling debut that deserves your attention." –Ron Charles, the Washington Post
Written with the haunting emotional power of Elizabeth Strout and Barbara Kingsolver, an astonishing debut novel that explores the lingering effects of a brutal crime on the women of one small Texas oil town in the 1970s.
Mercy is hard in a place like this . . .
It’s February 1976, and Odessa, Texas, stands on the cusp of the next great oil boom. While the town’s men embrace the coming prosperity, its women intimately know and fear the violence that always seems to follow.
In the early hours of the morning after Valentine’s Day, fourteen-year-old Gloria Ramírez appears on the front porch of Mary Rose Whitehead’s ranch house, broken and barely alive. The teenager had been viciously attacked in a nearby oil field—an act of brutality that is tried in the churches and barrooms of Odessa before it can reach a court of law. When justice is evasive, the stage is set for a showdown with potentially devastating consequences.
Valentine is a haunting exploration of the intersections of violence and race, class and region in a story that plumbs the depths of darkness and fear, yet offers a window into beauty and hope. Told through the alternating points of view of indelible characters who burrow deep in the reader’s heart, this fierce, unflinching, and surprisingly tender novel illuminates women’s strength and vulnerability, and reminds us that it is the stories we tell ourselves that keep us alive.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Elizabeth Wetmore’s debut novel is a force of nature—much like the women who populate its pages. Set in 1976, in the dusty, onetime boomtown of Odessa, Texas, the story is narrated by a rotating cast of female narrators, including 14-year-old Glory Ramírez, whose brutal rape exposes a local wellspring of racism and misogyny. Wetmore, a West Texas native, delivers an unsentimental depiction of an often brutal landscape ruled by white men and oil rigs. Her intimately drawn characters give voice to the rage, grief, and unexpected redemption that follow a horrific crime. Unflinching and hugely accomplished, Valentine is an absolute knockout.
Wetmore's stirring debut follows a group of women as they find the strength to survive a series of hardships in 1970s Odessa, Tex. After oil rigger Dale Strickland is charged with the rape of 14-year-old Gloria Ram rez, the town is split between those who believe he is guilty and those who believe she brought it on herself and who cast bigoted aspersions about Gloria and her family. Mary Rose Whitehead, pregnant with her second child and feeling alienated from her rancher husband, envisions a brutal comeuppance for Strickland and bonds unexpectedly with the reclusive Corrine Shepard, a recent widow who shares in her outrage ("as if there might have been some moral ambiguity, Corrine thinks bitterly, if Gloria Ram rez had been sixteen, or white"). Ten-year-old Debra Ann, whose mother abandoned her and whose father lets her wander freely, leaves behind imaginary friendships to help Jesse Belden, a luckless Vietnam vet. With Mary Rose as a major witness for the prosecution, Gloria eventually gets her day in court, though the outcome doesn't please anyone. As a storm threatens Odessa, Debra Anne watches a "thousand-foot cloud rise up from the earth," setting the stage for a series of potential tragedies, culminating with Mary Rose's ire stoked by the sight of her neighbor Debra Ann walking with Jesse, a stranger to her. Wetmore poetically weaves the landscape of Odessa and the internal lives of her characters, whose presence remains vivid after the last page is turned. This moving portrait of West Texas oil country evokes the work of Larry McMurtry and John Sayles with strong, memorable female voices.
Customer ReviewsSee All
What was the point?
The author writes beautifully, but that’s probably the only good thing about this book. The book is full of heartbreak and sadness, and fails to deliver any meaningful plot in my opinion.
Did not care for
I did not care for this book. I felt the author should have developed Glory’s character and story a lot more. I enjoyed reading about the character’s lives but it didn’t tie anything together at all. It was very choppy and difficult to read.
Heartbreaking and so true.
I cried all the way through the story. The ugliness that was unleashed is still with us today.